Beautiful Neuchatel

As some would know, Switzerland is a mélange combination of German, French and Italian. Being in the middle of these three larger nations can be a plus or minus. We can all admire how the Swiss has remain banded together even though they are diverse and different. It serves to remind us that it is possible to be united even if we retain our own heritage.Esplanade du Mont Blanc19

Neuchatel is in the French ‘part’ of Switzerland.

Sitting pretty on the lake of the same name, it is a classical Swiss city that retains much of its old world charms. There was three men who had driven all the way from Zurich in the morning here. After leaving their luggage in the hotel, they drove down to the centre of town looking for a place to park.

No luck.

Most if not all of the parking on the street are metered and the three gentlemen had nary a Swiss coin on them!

The beautiful lake

Esplanade du Mont Blanc8Lake Neuchatel is the largest lake that is entirely located within Switzerland. As the capital of the Canton of the same name, the city sits right along the lake. The Beau Rivage hotel where Mel will stay later in the week, is right next to the Esplanade Du Mont Blanc. Esplanade du Mont Blanc2In the morning when having breakfast, the view of the lake accompanies a nice warm cup of coffee…

This beautifully manicured public park is now blooming with flowers since it is mid spring. Take a walk along the promenade that lines the shore, and we walked to the small pier where a pair of swans seem to be nesting?

Esplanade du Mont Blanc9Now the hotel where Mel spent his first night was right on the water too – at the palafitte. It comprises of rooms built over water, most of them anyway. Now at this time of the year (spring), there are plenty of May flies – heh what a name! Could not open the windows without them swarming in, so obviously could not use the balcony…

Spend some time here, take a few selfies. Three men definitely did.

Old town walk

Neuchatel old town walk1Just a stone’s throw (literally) across the street from the Esplanade Du Mont Blanc is the “start” of the old city. Most guides told us to start from Place Pury, and that’s how compliant we were. Well, we weren’t thinking much on a Sunday.Neuchatel old town walk7a

Here though, even on a Sunday is thronged with the locals. And this, is because of the sunny day. Seems they don’t get that many here. Warm day and cold beer. How much better can it get? Of course it is helped by the fact that there are numerous small restaurants, chocolatiers and other retail shops in the adjoining Places des Halles. We had a simple lunch of burgers was at a local al fresco eatery – Le Prestige, followed by a slow meander through the streets – destination the chateau.Neuchatel Place du Pury2

Chris our US colleague was reminded from his last visit of local folks planting on the running water that flows through little canals built along the streets. We found this along the main pedestrian street just a little further up from the Place du Pury. Not exactly a fountain, but it is true that the locals had put in a lot of effort to green their spaces. Good job!

Fountains

One of the many things – aside from the special offer, are the fountains. Like Solothurn, I had observed that there are quite a few, each one different. If you look up Wiki, it will mention that there are about 140 of them all over town. Now I read somewhere this was not merely for picturesque purposes but was essential just 100 years back.

Remember that just over a century ago the horse and oxen were the equivalent of BMWs and Volkwagens? Just like petrol stations, fountains back in the day were used to water the work animals. And it was not just them. Folks had not running tap water and picked them up from the fountains for drink and wash. It was also a place to socialize.

But like Solothurn, the fountains were not just built for practical reasons. They were also used as emblems to commemorate or celebrate too. An example would be the fountain with blind justice balancing a scale and a sword. Interesting huh?

Walking off jet lag and dinner

Neuchatel old town walk17Climbing is the name of the game, and after lunch is not unwelcome. However, it can be rather steep. There is a tram car that you can take to the top of the hill, where the castle is located.

Views are obvious but truly you’d need to spend time walking the turrets and walls. There is a viaduct like bridge, which could have been the main entry to the fort. Nice! The hilltop fortress is also home to the Collegial. Guided tours are available, just inquire. But not for us, we were just here for the views and also the atmosphere – watching local folks play petanque (it’s really a French game).

Our dinner at the hotel was fantastic, though probably on the pricier end. The foie gras was both generous and tasted well prepared. My risotto with Morel mushroom and asparagus did not disappoint.

End of part one. Continue reading here for the 2nd part of the adventures of these three stooges.

May 2016

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